September 12, 2012
In respect with the commemoration of 9/11 the Catalans celebrated yesterday the Diada, their national feast. It was rather a contestation march than a celeration as over 1,5 million people flooded the streets of Barcelona. The message was clear: Catalans want to abstain from Spain, and especially from Madrid.
The question is whether the feeling of secession is an identity one or an economic one. In 2008 approximately 25 % of Catalans wanted secession and independence whereas in 2012 the percentage is doubled. It is not accidental the fact that 2008 was the year when the economic crisis was triggered showing the first signs of recession in Europe and the most vulnerable states, including Spain.
Furthermore, the austerity measures adopted by the government of Mariano Rajoy have affected growth and unemployment in Catalunia. Peripheries of Spain have major difficulties in following the targets of Rajoy program and unrest is thriving. Catalunia is one of the wealthiest regions in Spain and as the model of governance in the country looks alike the federal model, the region of Barcelona contributes more in the public fund. The annoyance gets deeper as other regions of Spain, like for instance the Basque Country, have more liberties and contribute less comparatively.
As Catalunia contributes more in the national fund, there are no clauses protecting the financial status of the periphery and this is a stunning problem. In average, Spanish industry is gathered in the Catalan region, jobs were used to grow in annual rate, and standards of living were quite high. Now conditions are getting worse and the general economic image of Spain lures Catalunia to equal drifts.
The nationalist feelings have been intermingled with the economic hardship and it is not easy this thing to be discerned in the eyes of the Catalans. The feeling of secession, that is getting even stronger, is strengthened with the current economic conditions and vice versa. Therefore, Catalans surely want independence and this independence is solidified with economic downturn.
The issue of Catalunia is definitely the edge of the iceberg of regionalism in Europe. It is a long-and-deep-rooted issue that pertains many corners of the continent, like for instance in France with Corse, Italy with its Northern parts, Great Britain with Northern Ireland, and many other regions. We will get back to this as it seems that recession will gradually revive and re-ignite collateral issues that have been rested into lethargy for decades.